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Re: PL support

From: Richard Stallman
Subject: Re: PL support
Date: Sun, 10 May 2020 22:35:11 -0400

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Some contributors are eagerly planning a sort of automatic facility to
"install external tools."  I'm disappointed to have to say that this
raises problems at various levels.  I doubt there is an acceptable way
to do it.

At the practical level, different distros have different methods of
installing packages.  Installing a package usually requires being
root.  And that's just the first-order run-down of the issue.  This is
a can of worms.

At the moral level, we have to make sure that Emacs is not being used
to install external packages we have not vetted based on our moral and
political criteria.  We must not let "convenience" lead us into
actions that implicitly work against what we stand for.  We would be
like a campaign for workers' rights that raises funds by selling on

It strikes me that this is also a system security issue.  I would have
to talk with the security advisors I trust about that question and see
what they think.

This issue may apply to programs other than Emacs.  If it does, I
think the GNU Project needs to draw up a general policy about the idea
of one package's automatically installing another.

The right way to draw this up is in discussions with the GNU Advisory
Committee, then with GNU developers on gnu-prog-discuss.  This process
must not be rushed.

Depending on the outcome of that, it might be wise to have a
subsequent discussion about what policy free distros should have about
packages that try to install other packages.  Specifically, whether
they should allow such packages.

Dr Richard Stallman
Chief GNUisance of the GNU Project (https://gnu.org)
Founder, Free Software Foundation (https://fsf.org)
Internet Hall-of-Famer (https://internethalloffame.org)

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